SINGAPORE - Who wants a cup of tea? It's not just Britons, old ladies and laborers enjoying a cuppa any more, with the world's most consumed drink after water getting a make-over and attracting younger, more discerning fans.
If teatime conjures up images of women in hats nibbling on scones, chances are you've not stepped into any of the hundreds of modern tea rooms and tea bars becoming as ubiquitous as the brew they offer.
These gourmet establishments can be found from the United States to Australia, often stocking hundreds of blends of tea, with British department store Selfridges even reportedly offering an aphrodisiac tea called Love Potion ahead of Valentine's Day.
"The days of tea appreciation are over, now it's all about chilling out with a tea cocktail," said Jutta Waldeck, a tea expert who has been in the industry for over a decade and does consulting work for Singapore-based lifestyle brand Naturalis.
"We need to keep innovating tea so that it remains relevant to the lifestyles of the younger generation."
Naturalis, which sources its teas from all over the world and then blends then in Germany, creates custom blends for hotels and spas, advises on tea lounges as well as lifestyle events that revolve around tea.
They are also offering a tea bar concept where people can customize their blend for an array of loose leaf tea and flavorings.
TWG Tea, a Singapore-based gourmet brand available in Britain, the United States, the Middle East and Asia, set up its first dedicated tea lounge more than two years ago.
The brand recently signed up with Singapore Airlines to offer blends onboard, as well as creating "couture" teas that match the fashion trends of the season.
Tea is believed to date back to 2,737 BC, when the second emperor of China discovered the drink after tea leaves blew into his hot water.
The world has since been drinking it in various forms, from the green teas favored in many parts of northern Asia to the milky, spicy, sugary or herbal infused concoctions traditionally imbibed in the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.
Asia has traditionally favored tea over coffee, and it would seem the drink has little to lose from its caffeinated competitor, with even global coffee chains such as Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea leaf offering various tea blends such as lattes, chais and even iced versions.
Tea has also gained popularity in recent years due to a heightened awareness of its health benefits, with study after study praising it for helping to ward off diseases.
According to the United Kingdom Tea Council, an independent body set up to promote tea drinking, tea can help to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease while its high levels of antioxidants are also beneficial.
One of the latest studies, which emerged at the First International Congress on Abdominal Obesity, claimed tea could help slim the waistline. A recent Japanese study also found that elderly people who drink several cups of green tea a day are less likely to suffer from depression.